An increasing need
Fire Chief Morris Leondar — elected by members of the fire department in October — said the decision to become part of an ESD was prompted by dwindling donations and county budget cuts that allowed the VFD to maintain, but not improve.
Aledo VFD has been getting by with a $250,000 budget, Leondar said. Spokesman Rev. Jay Atwood said the budget used to $500,000. It has decreased by $100,000 in the past three years, he said.
Aledo’s allocation from Parker County was $49,485 for FY 2010-11, $41,000 for FY 2011-12 and $48,984 for FY 2012-13, according to figures provided by Fire Marshal Shawn Scott’s office.
“It’s been tougher with the economy to get funding,” Leondar said, “and it’s obvious that the county’s moving out of the fire business. Most [fire departments] are in an ESD or moving into one.”
Leondar said the 100-square-mile Aledo Fire district would generate about $1 million in annual tax revenues, a number confirmed by Vinson, who said ESD No. 1 took in about $1.55 million in tax revenues this year.
Leondar said he expects some opposition to the proposal.
“It’s going to be a hard fought campaign,” he said, “It is anytime you talk about taxing anything. Some people don’t really want that.
“We believe Aledo VFD was dying as it is now, and we wanted to continue our service of 60 years. We wanted to be making our own decision, one we feel good about.”
Leondar said the ESD will help the district lower their ISO (insurance service office) rating, which he said is a 7 inside city limits and a 10 in the county.
The rating is provided by an organization that calculates risk based on many different factors, Leondar said, including the city’s water system and the location of fire stations.
The rating system is 10 — 1, with “1” being the best. Lower ratings translate to lower insurance rates for homeowners, Leondar said.
In ESD No. 1, the money collected from the entire district is pooled, Vinson said, then distributed according to need as determined by the ESD’s five-member board of commissioners, appointed by county commissioners.
Individual fire departments communicate what they need, he said, then he puts together a budget for the board to consider.
“Right now we have four fire departments in our ESD,” he said. “It’s my job to recommend to the board that we spend money in different areas.”
The district is currently purchasing new fire trucks for Silver Creek, Peaster and Springtown.
Aledo, Vinson said, could use two paid staff during daylight hours Monday through Friday as soon as possible. They should add a substation in the southwest portion of the district, ideally within the next one to three years. Later, he said, the main station should be relocated to a more central location, north of the primary station.